Concordia coach living lifelong dream
By Eric Peterson
The Forum

Kathy Wall always knew what she wanted to do with her life while growing up.

"From fourth or fifth grade anytime anyone asked Kathy what she wanted to be, it was to be a basketball coach," said Carl Wall, Kathy's father.

Wall, now in her third year as head coach of Concordia's women's basketball team, hasn't swayed from her convictions.

The Cobbers are 15-6 overall and 13-5 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. But Concordia's 84-61 loss at St. Thomas Saturday dealt a serious blow to the Cobbers' postseason chances.

While Wall always knew she wanted to be a coach, she never expected the opportunity would come so quickly.

Wall was hired to serve as an assistant under then Concordia women's coach Bob Kohler, entering the 1995-96 season. But due to health problems, Kohler was forced to step down and Wall was promoted to the head spot. She was named head coach just a day before the Cobbers' first game of the season.

"It was a great challenge," said Wall of the sudden promotion. "I was put in a position where I'd sink or swim. I was determined to swim."

Wall was only 25 when she received that first job. She had one year of experience as a student assistant at Concordia (1992-93) and two years as a graduate assistant at North Dakota State University (1993-95).

"Right away I thought 'Oh my gosh.'" Wall said. "But my faith was strong. I believed God wouldn't put me in a situation I couldn't handle. I knew I could do it. I worked very hard to be where I'm at."

Wall's coaching preparation started at a young age. When she was in grade school, she would tag along to practice with Carl, who coached for 13 years at Grand Forks Red River, Wahpeton and Fargo North.

"I grew up in the gym," Kathy said. "My dad was just an incredible role model for me."

Peggy Stibbe, Wall's high school coach at Fargo North, was also a big influence in her decision to become a coach. Wall admired the way Stibbe understood her players and the passion she had for the game.

Wall's time at NDSU also proved invaluable. She was on the staff during two of the Bison's NCAA Division II championship drives. Wall got a first-hand look at how a top-notch program should be run.

Wall had great respect for the hard work and knowledge head coach Amy Ruley and assistant Kelly Layman exhibited.

"I wanted to be a sponge and soak up everything they were doing," Wall said.

Wall must have soaked in quite a bit. Her first year at Concordia proved successful despite the unexpected promotion. The Cobbers posted a 20-6 record and advanced to their 14th straight NCAA tournament.

Last year, Wall guided Concordia to an 18-7 mark, although the Cobbers' string of postseason appearances was snapped.

Wall's career record stands at an impressive 53-19. Kathy's mom, Carol, hasn't been surprised with her daughter's success. Carl and Carol have seen most of the triumphs, attending every home game and occasional contests on the road.

Carol said Kathy's winning formula is simple.

"She loves her job," Carol said. "That shows. She really cares about those student-athletes. She's excited about them and works hard. It's the fulfillment of a dream."

Wall's passion for the game becomes apparent when you watch her patrol the sidelines during a game. You rarely see her standing in the same spot or position. The movement sometimes bothers assistant coach Steve Gravalin.

"Steve always tells me he has the worst seat in the house," said Wall with a laugh.

And while Gravalin is technically Wall's only assistant, she does receive some help from Carl at times. Wall said an episode during the St. Olaf game two Saturdays ago stands out.

During the first half of the game against the Oles, Carl and a friend noticed St. Olaf was setting illegal screens. They passed the information along to Wall as she was taking her team into the locker room for halftime.

Wall took the advice from Carl and told the referees to watch the moving screens before the start of the second half. The first call of the half went against St. Olaf for a moving screen. The foul also happened to be the fourth on one of the Oles' key post players.

Concordia went on to win 68-41.

"I turned around and looked at them after that call; they gave me the thumbs up," said Wall flashing a thumbs up sign. "It was hilarious. My father and I have a great relationship. It's not just father-daughter. It's coaching, too."

Wall said Division III is the perfect fit for her. She has no urge to move up to the Division II level. Her next career move will probably be to an athletic administration position at a small college or large high school.

But that move probably won't come for quite some time either.

"I want to get my doctorate and be an athletic director," Wall said. "But I'm not in a hurry. Right now, I'm exactly where I want to be. I just started."